Sometimes I forget how bad it can be. I watch enough B-horror that, over time, it appears my floor has descended to an untold depth. Then comes a movie that hits me in the face like a bucket of ice-cold water. Enter Richard Grieco (yes, that Richard Grieco) and Steve Stanulis’ Clinton Road (2019): a shadow of a film. Now, “a shadow of a film” sounds quite beautiful and if I were describing a good movie (perhaps some 16mm work of the 1970s obtained from Canyon Cinema for a nominal rental fee), this would be an intriguing description. But instead, I’m talking about a really shitty horror movie that succeeds at very little besides giving us Eric Roberts in maybe the most pointless scene in the history of cinema. So there’s that.
“…the missing woman’s sister and husband enlist a medium to contact her spirit.”
In Clinton Road (mostly) bad actors stumble through a terrible script until ghostly killers show up looking like the generalized “scary characters” (a goggle-wearing, hammer-wielding brute and a ghost girl with a teddy bear) found in a seasonal horror attraction. Then, the movie ends, and your mouth falls open as you realize you will never get the last 90 minutes of your life back. Pretty scary twist, huh? Okay, here’s the actual…plot. A woman disappears in a rural part of New Jersey with a reputation for being haunted. Flash forward, and the missing woman’s sister and husband enlist a medium to contact her spirit. They, with friends and lovers in tow, head to the scene of the disappearance and encounter malevolent spirits without much rhyme or reason.
The production values of the film are passable, and the technical aspects aren’t the issue. It’s the groan-inducing script and slapdash storytelling that are the real offenders here. The scenario, while flimsy, does have promise, but this is quickly flushed down the toilet once people start talking. As the characters are introduced, we get the sense that the filmmakers haven’t ever experienced the reality of another person. There’s a so-called “hippy woman”, who, for all intents and purposes, is exactly the same as everyone else, the vapid, self-absorbed fiance of the missing woman’s husband who is pretty much a cartoonish “mean girl”, and then there’s the protagonist, whose main virtue seems to be that she’s simply not one of the other characters. It’s abysmal.
“The production values of the film are passable, and the technical aspects aren’t the issue. It’s the groan-inducing script…”
At best the film has points of coherency (as in it follows a character and their motivations for a few beats), but this very small victory does not extend to the mystery at hand. Clinton Road is a collection of horror movie affects largely out of any specific context. Before the film devolves into sub-cliched, Halloween Horror Nights fare, there is a brief shining oasis of fun. Our crew of characters meets at a highly exclusive Manhattan nightspot to set the plot in motion. The student film rendering of a trendy club is a feast for the eyes. The lights are basically completely on, and the walls are covered with laser jet printed coffee shop art. It’s laughably stupid, and that’s pretty fun. The owner of this hot spot is none other than the immortal pimp- turned-TV lawman, Ice T, who succeeds in providing the only shred of charisma to be found. Clearly, the filmmakers’ greatest feat was accumulating enough dirt on the star to blackmail him into doing one day on set at a bar/coffee house with garbage bags over the windows. Ice T quickly disappears and with him goes any hope that this movie could be good.
Oh, and Eric Roberts appears in a scene so useless, it wouldn’t even make it into an episode of Entourage. He stands in line for the trendy club only to have his identity doubted until he produces his ID, confirming to the disbelieving door woman that he is, indeed, gasp, THE Eric Roberts. Once his identity is established, he treats the embarrassed employee with an enlightened benevolence and disappears into the club and out of the movie never to be seen–or spoken of–again. It’s so idiotic that it sort of rules but still, one wishes the film could have shown the same Eric Roberts-like benevolence and stayed on the shelf.
Clinton Road (2019) Directed by Richard Grieco and Steve Stanulis. Starring Ace Young, Erin O’Brien, Cody Calafiore, Katie Morrison, Lauren LaVera, James DeBello, Sarah Pribis, and Vicent Pastore, Eric Roberts, and Ice T (sort of)
2 out of 10